Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

We're taught to decide whether an unbalanced hand is worth a two-club opening if the hand is within a trick of game. This suggests that a minor-suit hand should be one trick stronger in playing strength than a major-suit hand. Does this make sense? Should we require a bit more with unbalanced minor-suit hands?

Wrong Number, Clarksburg, Ontario

I do tend to open a minor on some single-suited strong hands — but if you have no rebid over any of the expected one-level responses, open two clubs and hope to get by. Also, with 4-5 or 4-6 in diamonds and a major, you can (by agreement) open two clubs and then jump in your major to show this hand. If you have clubs and a major, responder has three diamonds available as a second negative bid, so you don't need an artificial sequence.

My partner opened one no-trump in second chair with ♠ Q-9-5,  A-4,  K-Q-8, ♣ K-J-5-3-2. When the next hand overcalled two hearts, I doubled. Should this be penalty or takeout? If it is a question of agreement, what do you recommend?

Human Error, Staten Island, N.Y.

I suggest that for exactly the same reason that you play negative doubles when an opponent intervenes over a suit, you also play takeout doubles from both sides when your one no-trump is overcalled. The reason is simply that you will be short in their suit far more often than you will have length. That said, a call of three clubs looks normal here.

I understand that the purpose of shuffling is to achieve a new arrangement of the cards; hence, a new game problem. One thorough shuffle would do that. I would recommend no less than two. Where do the experts stand?

Lucky Larry, Novato, Calif.

Many authorities say that given how inefficiently people shuffle, the MINIMUM acceptable number might be as high as seven. Apparently eight perfect shuffles return the cards to their original state — but who can shuffle perfectly?

My partner opened one heart, and I was third to speak with ♠ J-6-2,  J-10-4,  A-J-5, ♣ K-8-6-4. What are the merits of a making a simple raise, as opposed to going directly to three hearts or offering jump support via a forcing no-trump?

Eager Beaver, Nashville, Tenn.

This is maximum for a raise to two hearts, but I'd have no problem with the simple raise without the heart 10, where the scattered values and unsupported jacks aren't really pulling their full weight. As it is, I could live with the jump raise via the forcing no-trump, but would still settle for the more pessimistic route.

Recently you ran this unopposed auction: one spade – two diamonds – two hearts – three clubs – four hearts. Since responder never supported either of opener's suits during the bidding, how will opener know which suit would be trumps if responder uses Blackwood?

Name That Trump Suit, Lorain, Ohio

Hearts (the last-bid suit) will be trump here. Curiously, it does seem hard for responder to set spades as trump, but he would have been able to set spades as trump in a game-forcing manner (if playing two-over-one) at his previous turn.

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RobMay 21st, 2012 at 2:25 pm

I realize it’s a bit late to comment now, but I wanted to explain the reasoning behind the advice to shuffle at least 7 times. The reason to shuffle is not just get a new arrangement of cards, but to get a more-or-less “random” arrangement.

This randomness comes from the fortunate fact that we don’t shuffle perfectly (like a zipper) every time. Given all of the different possible riffle shuffles that could happen, it takes 7 shuffles to even have the possibility of generating any of the other potential deck configurations from a given starting configuration. Fewer than 7 shuffles means that there are certain deck configurations that could not possibly be achieved.

RobMay 21st, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Sorry, I should have said, “Given all of the different possible riffle shuffles that could happen, it takes 7 shuffles to even have the possibility of generating ALL of the other potential deck configurations from a given starting configuration.”